The phrase “No one is indispensable” has always made me curious. I’ve always questioned at the how and why individual people are not indispensable. If they are extremely passionate and excellent at what they do and were not there to do it then surely there would be a dramatic negative effect on things around them. I then become curious about who would replace them if they were not there, surely out of the billions of people on this earth there would be another person just as good who could come along and take their place, of course it may take some considerable time to find them but there are odds that you could bet on.
After the recent news about the possibility of Jonathan Ive leaving Apple and returning to the UK to spend time with his family, I became increasingly frustrated about the indispensable argument. If you take Microsoft for example, Bill Gates left Microsoft after you haven’t seen any huge changes in the way Microsoft operate, sales haven’t plummeted and they are still working on new products. Looking at Apple, if Steve Jobs was to finally take permanent leave from the company and step down there are only a hand full of people who could lead the company with a similar vision to Jobs. Jonathan Ive is one of those people, for him to leave is a gaping whole in the Apple product design line considering Ive is responsible for the iPod, iPhone and iPad product design.
Taking those two examples I thought more on the subject and came to the conclusion that in fact, no one is indispensable HOWEVER when you get a group of people together, what they create is what is indispensable. You CAN have one of the persons you thought was indispensable leave and it would only alter the dynamic of the indispensable team rather than crush it completely. Look at every great company that has fallen and you’ll most likely find that it wasn’t because of one person leaving the company that in the altering their successful trajectory but more because an indispensable team went their separate ways within that company.